Whitman students earn prestigious Humanity in Action Fellowships

Jaqueline Bonilla and Beverly Li

The need to protect minorities and promote human rights in local communities and around the world is at the heart of Humanity in Action’s mission.

Whitman students Beverly Li ’14 and Jacqueline Bonilla ’16 will be helping to forward that cause this summer after the international organization awarded them Humanity in Action Fellowships.

“I applied for the fellowship because I’m interested in making sure there is access to quality education,” Li said.

Beverly Li
Beverly Li '14

Jacqueline Bonilla
Jacqueline Bonilla '16

Li is a first generation college student whose parents immigrated to the U.S. from China 22 years ago. Her mother works as a payroll manager and her father works in construction.

“I think education is the human rights issue of our era. It’s a means of advancement and a way out of poverty,” said Li, who is majoring in psychology and minoring in Chinese.

While Li is unsure about her future career plans, she’s confident the HIA fellowship will enable her to “learn more about human rights issues.”

“There are many ‘isms,’ especially racism, that drive me to want to understand how to end cycles of hate, oppression and ignorance. I think education is the first step to at least address ignorance.”

Bonilla is a sociology major who has been involved with social justice projects both in high school and at Whitman. She applied for the HIA fellowship because she wants to have an opportunity to join a network of people who are just as interested in creating positive change in the world as she is.

“I want to challenge myself and learn more about human rights and social justice through a global lens,” Bonilla said. “As I was applying to the fellowship, I got to see what some of the HIA alumni are up to now. Some of them started their own non-profit organizations, which I find inspiring.

“I aspire to be an immigration lawyer and eventually start my own non-profit to help undocumented youth attend college.”

Li and Bonilla’s achievement stands out, because out of the 605 applicants, HIA awarded only 40 fellowships. Whitman is one of only six schools in the country to have two HIA fellows this year. The others are Yale, Brown, Columbia, UCLA and University of Rochester.

Keith Raether, Director, Office of Fellowships and Grants, is not surprised that Li and Bonilla both earned HIA fellowships.

“In the context of HIA, Jackie and Beverly’s commitment to human rights goes far beyond the classroom and speaks to the heart of HIA's mission,” Raether said. 

“They're not just committed in theory and critique. Social justice is part of their daily practice.”